Now that I have discussed my views on intuitive exercise, I can finally talk about something that I am very passionate about, and that is the misconceptions behind intuitive eating. So many people are making it seem like intuitive eating means eating whatever the hell you want, which then leads to health shaming the people who choose to follow a specific diet. (I am using the word “diet” to mean literally just the foods that we eat).
Now, if you are someone who feels good when you eat whatever you want: sweets, gluten, veggies, meat, etc. Then that’s great. However, I truly truly believe that so many of the issues that people face (anxiety, depression, constipation, fatigue, bloating, cramping, acne, headaches, insomnia, etc.) all roots back to what they are eating. Everybody has food sensitivities and finding out what they are and adjusting your diet accordingly can be absolutely life changing. Gluten and sugar are big contributors to these issues and when people ask me for advice on how to fix some of these problems or how to lose weight and feel better, I suggest eliminating them. Obviously, everyone is different and you should see an expert in order to know what diet will work best for you, but those are very common food sensitivities and can contribute to a wide array of health issues.
Personally, I would never shame anybody who chooses to eat whatever they want or chooses to incorporate things like gluten and sugar into their diet. So, why should people shame others for following a specific diet or for not choosing to eat whatever they want?
If a health icon is going to view and promote intuitive eating as eating whatever you want, whenever you want, that is going to make people think that is a healthy lifestyle, which is it not. Eating ice cream every night is not healthy. That’s a fact. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you choose to do that or guilty on any level, but you should be aware that is it unhealthy and be aware of what sugar and artificial ingredients are doing to your body. Knowledge is power!
Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body… to an extent. Just like someone who never exercises isn’t going to wake up one day craving the gym, someone who eats mac n’ cheese and pizza all of the time isn’t going to wake up one day and crave salmon and veggies. You have to train your body and find out what healthy, fulfilling foods you enjoy. Since I changed my diet drastically, I truly rarely crave sugar and I mainly crave vegetables or meat. If I am craving something sweet, I have it. If I feel guilty or unhappy about my decision, or physically sick, I will meditate on it for a couple minutes and then let it go. Simple as that!
I think it’s important to say that your body doesn’t ALWAYS know what’s best. Sometimes, it craves something that you truly should not be eating. Maybe someone who is sensitive to gluten or has celiac disease is really craving carbs, or bread of some sort, does that mean they should eat bread and then when they’re sitting there with a horrible migraine or an upset stomach say, “well that’s what my body wanted.” Obviously, it didn’t want that. Maybe you were craving carbs so you have a slice of gluten free bread, or a sweet potato instead. It’s so important to treat your body with care. Filling it with sugar, artificial ingredients, and genetically modified organisms is, in my opinion, abusing your body to some extent, especially if you are getting sick or feeling unhappy afterwards.
Restriction can be extremely dangerous and lead to eating disorders and disordered eating. If you are someone who has experienced an eating disorder, or feel that you are developing disordered eating habits, maybe you do let yourself eat what you want because restricting triggers you. I also believe that the kind of “intuitive eating” that involves eating as much of anything you want can be triggering for binge eating disorder. Some people truly feel better when they “restrict” themselves from eating certain things, especially people who have struggled with binge eating. It helps them to control what they are eating and helps them to make healthier choices. “Restriction” isn’t a bad word; it becomes bad when someone becomes too obsessive or too restrictive.
The point of the entire blog post isn’t to bash intuitive eating on any level. I think that intuitive eating is an amazing movement. It’s to say that everyone is different and NOBODY should feel ashamed for what they choose to do. Someone who has ice cream every night or loves to eat sugar and gluten shouldn’t feel ashamed, just like someone who follows a rigid paleo diet or a rigid vegan diet shouldn’t feel ashamed.
Just like intuitive exercise, I think the line between intuitive eating and eating disorders is drawn by evaluating what the intention is. Why are you eating the way you are eating? If you are eating a Paleo diet because you’re terrified of gaining weight or you think people will judge you if you stop; that’s not healthy. If you are eating a Paleo diet because it makes you happy and makes your body feel good, then that is a great personal choice. It all revolves around intention.
The artichoke pizza on gluten free pizza crust with vegan ricotta from one of my favorite restaurants in the city: True Food Kitchen
Tips for (my version of) intuitive eating:
Eat when you’re hungry!
I think the obsession around food can get out of hand extremely easily. Especially because of the influence of social media. People post something they’re eating for breakfast and everyone automatically compares it to what they ate for breakfast. Some people show a picture of two giant smoothies, so then the person who sees that will try to drink two giant smoothie and get a massive stomach ache because that’s not what their body wanted. Or, maybe someone shows a bowl of carrots for breakfast so people think that they should be eating a small amount as well. First of all, everyone’s body is different. Some need to eat a small breakfast, some people fast in the mornings, and some people need to eat a huge breakfast full of meat and protein. You have to be able to look at what other people are doing and respect it, but not compare yourself to them. If I get hungry an hour after breakfast, I eat another snack! When I am hungry, I will absolutely eat. Your body feels hunger for a reason. Don’t feel like you’re only allowed to eat within certain time slots. Eat when you’re hungry. That’s it.
Have access to healthy desserts.
I know that I get a huge sweet tooth some nights (okay let’s be honest, most nights), but I have also made the personal decision to not consume refined sugars, so, instead of viewing that “sweet tooth” as my intuition to eat pie and ice cream for dessert every night, I stock up on the healthy, fueling, low glycemic desserts (except I always like to call it FOOD rather than “sweets” or dessert because all of the desserts I love are made up of real freaking ingredients, and they’re amazing. Here’s some of my favorites! Side note: it’s also really important to always have these on hand, because if you don’t have any healthy desserts in the house, you’re most likely going to reach for something unhealthy to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Chocolate Covered Paleo Coconut Secret Bars (my favorite is the mint; throw it in the freezer — it tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream)
Eating Evolved Paleo Chocolate (the Keto Cups are insane). There is no refined sugar in their products (they use Coconut Sugar as a sweetener) I use the Eating Evolved Chocolate to make chocolate covered fruits! It’s SO good. Click here to check out my recipe for Paleo Chocolate Walnut Covered Bananas (pictured above) for my secret about making chocolate covered treats.
Rawmio Paleo “Nutella” I found this product at Whole Foods Market and it’s so good. The actual name of the product is Rawmio Hazelnut spread. I haven’t tried the other products but they sound AMAZING. Antioxidant Superfood Truffles? Count me in! They also use no refined sugar in any of their products. Click here to check out my out my recipe for Rawmio Covered Strawberries (pictured above) for one of the many uses of this amazing product.
Rachael’s Good Eats Cashew Cookie Skillet (the original recipe is INSANELY good and I put my own twist on it and I made a double chocolate version. All I did was add 1/4 cup of organic cocoa powder, and I used 3 tbsp of cashew milk instead of 1 tbsp almond milk. I also used cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips, but I love using a cut up Eating Evolved chocolate bar the best)
The chocolate Rebbl Drinks make for great treats on their own. Click here to see my Reishi Banana Chocolate Milkshake (Paleo) recipe (pictured above) that I made with the Dark Chocolate Protein Drink.
I am so happy I discovered this brand. They make the most insane paleo and vegan desserts. They have amazing maca honey caramels, an amazingly looking paleo cheesecake, and these bars are INSANE. I don’t know how to describe how good they are– you just seriously need to try them. Head over to Daydream Dessert Co. You will be amazed.
Craving sugar? Try something else first.
Maybe you truly believe that you body is telling you that it NEEDS Skittles. Or that it really just needs something with cane sugar in it. If you want it, eat it! But if you’re trying to avoid sugars for any reason, try these things first.
Eat something else!
Eat something with protein, or something filling for your body. Maybe you go back for seconds on dinner if you’re still feeling hungry, maybe you have a hard boiled egg, or a small bowl of granola with almond milk and almond butter.
Go for a walk (or do a different workout)
Sometimes (especially during my period) I really feel like I want some sugar, or I just feel uncomfortable or gross in my own skin, which leads me to think I should just eat something shitty. Then, I’ll go to a yoga class, or go for a walk outside, or even do an intense workout on the stairmaster, and nine times out of ten, I feel refreshed and healthy and I no longer want anything to do with sugar.
Drink a big glass of water, or a cup of tea!
Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, your body is really just dehydrated. Chug a glass of water and see how you feel after that. That’s something I am truly not good at. I don’t drink enough water during the day, and I tell everyone how important it is but I definitley should be drinking more. You can also try drinking a glass of tea. Tea is a really filling drink and green tea can be good for digestion. There are also a lot of awesome non-caffienated teas to drink before bed to help you relax and unwind. My favorite brand is Yogi Tea. (The ginger tea is my favorite and the Kava tea puts me right to sleep)
(eat something else, go for a walk, drink water or tea)
Don’t feel guilty
Don’t hold onto the fact that you “cheated” on your “diet” because you didn’t cheat! You simply let yourself have something that you wanted, and that is a form of self care. If you eat something that you feel like you might “regret,” just let it go. Maybe sit down and think about it for three minutes (seriously set a timer) but after that time is up, LET IT GO. Dwelling on something you ate isn’t going to turn back time, it’s extremely detrimental to your health and you probably enjoyed it in the moment! It’s just food, and everyday is a new opportunity to start fresh.
Think about how you’ll feel AFTER you eat it.
If you’re intolerant to gluten but you just really really want a big donut that’s sitting on the counter, or if you avoid dairy but you just really want ice cream, take a step back. Is the two minutes that you are going to enjoy eating that really worth the headache, the stomach ache, the health risk? Probably not. It can be really easy to get caught up in eating something you’re not “supposed to,” especially when you’re starving or you’re craving it, but just try your best to take a step back and think about it for a minute. However, if you do happen to get caught up and eat it, that’s okay. Let it go and move on. This is also why it’s so important for me to always be stocked up on healthy groceries and healthy desserts, and also to have meal prep ready. Sometimes I’m starving and there’s nothing that I can just heat up, so I end up eating something quick that makes me feel shitty. If you have healthy options readily available to you, you will find so much more success in living your healthy lifestyle.
This is the Elk Burger (with no bun) from Nickson’s Eatery. I eat intuitively a lot when I go out to eat because I know for a fact restaurants don’t cook in Paleo oils, and they normally cook with vegetable or canola oil, but I am not going to let that ruin the joy of eating out with my peers! I also got a side of sweet potato fries that are SO yummy.
I have a couple examples of how I ate intuitively in two recent instances in my life. I follow a pretty strict Paleo diet on a regular basis. The reasons being that I am in the process of figuring out digestive and hormonal issues within my body, and because it makes me feel good and I truly love eating paleo. A couple weeks ago I attended Mamby on the Beach, a music festival on Oakwood beach in Chicago. The food options were not so great. It was typical festival food: chicken tenders, french fries, donuts, etc. However, I found a really awesome Mexican restaurant called Live to Eat: Sol and Gaby. Even though corn (or corn tortillas) aren’t paleo, and the steak probably wasn’t grass-fed and the chicken probably wasn’t organic, I ate the tacos! They were super delicious (that’s literally all I ate throughout the whole day, tacos on tacos), and I felt fine afterwards. Nobody is perfect and sometimes we just have to make the best of a current situation.
Another instance where I think intuitive eating comes into play for me personally is at family events or family holidays. Most of the time I bring lots of snacks and bring along some digestive enzymes, but sometimes you have to make do with what they are serving for the main meal. This past fourth of July, they were grilling lots of meats and had some appetizers such as pasta salad, taco salad, and different dips. I decided to fill my plate with some black olives, some tomatoes (picked out of the tomato and mozzarella salad) and a smoked chicken thigh. This chicken thigh was SO GOOD; I am a huge fan of smoked meats. I asked beforehand what they marinated the chicken in and it was an array of spices and a little bit brown sugar. Although brown sugar isn’t paleo, I wasn’t going to deprive myself of something that I really wanted to try, and I’m so glad I ate it because it was truly amazing! T-god for my uncles and their smoker.
Even though I just wrote a long blog post about eating food, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. True intuitive eating should be simple. You shouldn’t have to think about it too hard. You can’t be completely in control of every situation when it comes to food and you just have to accept that. Do what makes your body happy and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.
Happy Eating (: